Black female-owned businesses are the fastest growing economic force in the U.S. The number of black women-owned businesses grew 67 percent between 2007 and 2012, outpacing the 27 percent growth rate for female-owned businesses, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. The rapid growth is particularly impressive and hard-won considering the challenges that black women face as entrepreneurs, including lack of startup capital, resources and loans, along with racial and gender discrimination within the largely white, male-dominated sectors of financing and technology.
In spite of considerable hurdles, black women entrepreneurs, such as Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of Act 1 Group, and Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of Radio One, Inc., have made formidable gains. Yet, it would be remiss to acknowledge today’s successful African American female business owners without acknowledging the history of black female entrepreneurship in the U.S. For many black women during post-Emancipation, self-employment was the only economy they were allowed to participate in, and some women thrived, such as Madam C.J. Walker, who created specialized hair products for African Americans and became America’s first black self-made millionaire.
While we can’t (and ought not to) ignore the racial legacy that runs through the veins of American history, we can take this opportunity to celebrate these nine black female entrepreneurs who have not only earned a hard-won spot at the table but serve as inspirational lightning rods for all women.